Sorry about the delay folks, this holiday week has killed me. With that being said, EXPLOITATION ALLEY!! is back, and this week I thought I’d focus on one of my ten favorite films of all time, Wes Craven’s awesome 1972 debut, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. While I’m sure about 99% of you readers are already very familiar with this sleazy, maniacal movie, for those who aren’t…get ready.
A very loose adaption of Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING (that one takes place in 16th century Sweden), THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT tells the story of Mari Collingwood, a young girl who is wanting to celebrate her 17th birthday by going out on the town with her friend Phyllis to see metal band Bloodlust (any girl who thinks seeing a band called Bloodlust is ok in my book). While Mari’s parents, John and Estelle, are initially reluctant to let her go due to them not really caring for the free spirit IDGAF attitude of Phyllis and being not overly stoked on Mari seeing a band called Bloodlust, the Collingwoods eventually let Mari go. At the same time, our criminals of the film, Krug and company, are hiding out in an apartment, after escaping from prison. The gang consists of the leader Krug (a rapist and murder), Krug’s girlfriend Sadie (a sexual deviant and murderer who looks like a cross between a cat and a lion), Krug’s partner and friend Weasel (a pedophile and murderer) and Krug’s son Junior, who is continually kept on heroin by Krug, in order to get him to do what he wants.
After Mari and Phyllis are approached on the street by Junior acting like he’s selling marijuana, the girls follow him up to the apartment, and are kidnapped by the gang. They’re taken out of the city and after the gang’s car breaks down, coincidentally almost next to Mari’s house, the gang takes the girls to the woods. Once there, the gang forces Mari and Phyllis to have sex with each other which is followed by Sadie performing oral sex on Mari. While that happens, Phyllis make a run for it, and almost gets away until she is stabbed to death by Weasel. Sadie then reaches in, pulls out Phyllis’s intestines and just to add insult to injury, they also cut her arm off…geez these people are mean! While this is all going down, back in the woods, Mari tries her best to persuade Junior to let her go and gives her a peace sign necklace that her parents gave her for her birthday. She makes a run for it but immediately is met by the gang, who gives Mari the arm of Phyllis, and decides that Mari’s going to “get hers”. Krug carves his name into Mari’s chest and then rapes her, in a very uncomfortable scene. Mari slowly gets up, vomits and then walks into the lake in front of them. Krug and the gang seem to feel bad about what they did for a split second, but that’s disregarded when Krug extends his arm and shoots Mari to death.
This is where the movie gets even more nuts. The vicious gang clean themselves up, changes clothes and begin to look for the closest place to find refuge. Unfortunately for them, it ends up being the house of The Collingwoods, who have since called the police worried about Mari not coming home from the concert the previous night. While the police are bumbling around looking for Mari, Krug and his gang show up at the house posing as salesmen, and the Collingwoods invite them to stay the night. One thing leads to another and Mari’s mother and father realize something’s wrong, when they see Mari’s necklace on Junior’s neck. They go out to the woods and eventually find Mari’s body and decide to take revenge on Krug and his gang..but I’ve spoiled enough so I’ll leave it at that. I will say that by the time the film is over, Mr and Mrs Collingwood exact such a brutal revenge on Krug, Weasel and Sadie that they’re just as vicious as the villains. Everything from throats getting cut, penises getting bit off, booby traps and some fine work with a chainsaw..it’s all in there. At one point, Junior finally decides to stand up to Krug, pulling a gun on him, and not only does Krug not like that, he talks the kid into blowing his own brains out…it’s an intense movie to say the least.
Definitely not for the faint of heart, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is one of the most notorious “video nasties”, an unflinching movie that like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, was shot in a real Cinéma vérité style, feeling more like a documentary or a newsreel, than a glossy movie. The grittiness of it adds to the overall shock, and though its going on 41 years since it came out, it hasn’t lost its shock with age. It created an uproar when it came out and even Fred Lincoln, who played Weasel HATES the movie, calling it garbage and regrets doing it. I’m glad he did because his portrayal of Weasel is pretty fucking cool, in fact EVERYONE in this movie kills it, almost(I’ll get to that in a sec). Jeramie Rain as Sadie is such a powerful female villain, she holds her own with Krug and Weasel and pretty much is vicious from when she comes onto the screen for the first time, up until she meets her grisly end. The person who pretty much destroys everyone though is the late David Hess. His portrayal as Krug is so mean and so intense that it’s hard to take your eyes off of the guy. He commands every scene he’s in, and you’re almost not wanting him to go, when he gets what’s coming to him at the hands of the Collingwoods. Hess created a monster and in my opinion it’s one of the best movie villains of all time.
I LOVE THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but don’t get me wrong, there are things wrong with it. Aside from “The Road Leads to Nowhere” (written and performed by Hess himself), some of the music doesn’t fit the movie, in fact some of it is cartoony as hell. Same with the sheriff and deputy who are both looking for Mari for the second half of the film. Their scenes are borderline Three Stooges slapstick and mostly take away from the intensity of what is set up. Those small faults though can definitely be forgiven though, and with that being said, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is pure grindhouse exploitation filmmaking at its best. Just remember, TO AVOID FAINTING, KEEP REPEATING: IT’S ONLY A MOVIE. IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE…..